Call centers represent the bridge of connection between the customer and an organization, which has developed throughout time from face2face interactions to technology-driven solutions that allow customers to interact with companies around the world through CUSTOMER-SUPPORT.
In the past 15+ years, perspectives on the industry have surfaced opinions about whether the industry is doing enough for its employees.
Whether it’s about inbound or outbound call agents, they all have an important job: to listen, understand, and create an opportunity for problem-solving and benefits-offering for the person who is on the other side of the call or chat.
So how can you create a connection through a voice-only conversation?
Is going to work more about a method of earning or a routine? Is it a schedule, or simply a part of life? Every employer must think ahead of everyone if they want to choose the best candidate, but they must also be aware of the fact that it is not only about the environment you provide, but also about the tools.
Build an Environment and Provide the Tools
These two elements are what make you the employer-to-be, and though you might not consider every detail, your people do. Imagine hiring an agent that has to struggle with the software you are using – if they get bored, angry, tired, or annoyed, they won’t perform the same. It’s like hiring someone to paint your ceiling, without providing them with a ladder.
We all know how important it is for every employee to see their work bring in results. And be rewarded for it. Including CEOs, managers, or agents. With over 3.4 million contact center agents in the USA alone in 2018, the industry is growing faster and better, and the one thing customers value most is human interaction.
We live in an era where technology allows us to simplify the work within many departments, and while messaging and AI are a crucial part of the industry’s evolution, the human touch will never lose its value.
If your business needs to step up with the growing customer demands, then you need to step up with your employees’ demands. A bored employee is one that will stop performing, and therefore, the calls will become no more than a task, not something enjoyable.
A recent Zendesk study shows that about 96% of customers are more excited about a friendly tone of voice when being called or calling a contact center. Going back to basics, after all, social platforms became part of our day-to-day life, the face2face interaction was customer support.
Another study from Harris Interactive shows that 89% of consumers switch to the competition because of a poor customer experience. A great ability to speak warmly to customers on the phone can make or break a business, while a weak greeting can cause irreparable damage. That’s why it’s essential for agents to maintain a jovial attitude. It’s also one of the fundamentals of answering calls.
Follow a Set of Rules
Just imagine for a second when the last time you interacted with a stranger was and why. Perhaps you needed some directions. Perhaps you were in a shop and you were in need of help. Call center agents interact with strangers on a daily basis and these encounters translate differently, as every individual has different needs, desires, and ways of addressing them.
The conversation must follow through a set of rules, with a dose of empathy and politeness – formal, but not too formal; friendly, but not too friendly. And you know, not every stranger is nice. But as mentioned above, a job can become a place of belonging and growing, a place where tasks are primary, but so is happiness.
As soon as a client picks up the phone, you must be able to provide them with the answers to the following questions:
- Who are you?
- Who do you represent?
- What is the reason for your call?
- What do you expect from your client?
Tip: If your agents can find something in common with your clients and if they can bring it up in a natural way, it can make the phone call more appealing.
So how can call center agents use that to their advantage and how can employers provide them with what they need?
Mitigate the Stress Factor
With growing customer demands, there’s a stress factor threatening the call center industry and that is performance. Stress is obviously present in many forms and in many industries, and in this particular case, we’re talking about performance in terms of call curation, daily call volume, completion, target, and so on.
Stress is mostly caused by KPIs and it can be an important element to determine whether your agents are working in a healthy environment.
“Houlihan proposed that ‘call centers are rooted in contradictory and structural paradoxes, and confront a number of trade-offs on that basis’ […] The literature suggests a tension between call centers’ desire for customer service and their preferred focus on operational efficiency”
Quality vs Quantity
The reason is simple: there are leaders who would rather focus on quality and some who would rather focus on quantity. Some of the core principles in business are based on the optimization of budgets and a great prioritization of tasks.
Taylor and Bain argued that particularly in the financial services industry in the UK, targets are a significant source of stress for workers as more and more emphasis is placed upon meeting them in an increasingly competitive business environment.
In centers that claim not to prioritize targets, researchers have found that the staff often feels significant pressure, whether it is because of the lack of organizational practice or tools that could help employees organize their schedules.
It is a tough job to make your employees realize they are offering a human conversation, not a performance task, that they don’t need to fake a smile or a friendly tone, but to be themselves.
All of the above can translate into one of the oldest sayings in the whole world: just be you. And like every other interaction you have, if you’re a call center agent, just think of it as being your first time meeting someone. they need this – a connection, and nothing more.